31 July 2020

Going For A Cyclist's Jugular--Or His Neck, Anyway

Getting knocked or pulled--or simply falling--off your bike is almost certain to cause you injury.   Trust me, I know!

So when someone sent along this news clip, I felt rage at the cops.

What isn't clear is what, exactly, the kid did to warrant that kind of treatment. The street was closed off so neither the young man, nor the friends who were riding with him, "obstructed" traffic, as one of the officers claimed.

It seems that those boys did little, if anything, more than to taunt the cops: something that kids of that age, who naturally thumb their noses at authority figures, are wont to do.  

I have to wonder, in the wake of George Floyd'ss murder, what one of those cops was thinking when he went for the kid's neck.

30 July 2020

Nobody's Flying

Here in New York, some people have returned to their normal workplaces and most stores, bars and restaurants--at least, the ones that survived the shutdown--are open, if operating at a fraction of their normal capacities.

If anything, life is more restrictive for people coming into this city--or New York State--from about 30 other states or territories.  Visitors, or people returning from, those places are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.  An airline ticket, especially if it's purchased online (as most are these days), makes it easy  for authorities to track arrivals.

As a result, yesterday morning, I took 50 kilometre ride along the north shore of Queens and Nassau County--that is to say, directly under the paths of flights that would normally take off from or land in LaGuardia International Airport--and didn't see a single aircraft in the sky.

This brand-new LaGuardia terminal disproves, at least for now, the notion that "if you build it, they will come" (or go).

Or perhaps it shows that even if something has wings, it might not fly.

If even s/he isn't flying, who else is?

29 July 2020

A Socially-Distanced Peloton?

For many Americans, the beginning of the baseball season, however belated and truncated, was a sign that things were "returning to normal."

(What does "normal" mean anymore?  What did it ever mean?)

Well, less than a week into the new season, something that the league commissioner, team owners and others who had a vested interest did not anticipate--or simply ignored the possibility of--happened.   It seems that they if they foresaw anything, they envisioned one or two players on a time getting infected, and isolated.  

Instead, 17 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for the virus.  As a result, at least the next four games on the Marlins' schedule have been postponed.  Given that the schedule is already belated, truncated and compressed, no one really knows how or whether those games will be made up.  Moreover, other games have to be postponed or rescheduled because the Marlins were playing in Philadelphia, and the next team that comes to town will either have to reschedule or find a way not to use the visiting team's clubhouse.

More important, though, are the family members, friends, girlfriends, flight attendants, restaurant or bar workers or others those infected players may have contacted--not to mention members of opposing teams.

I mention the Marlins because their situation got me to wondering about other sports, including bicycle racing.  Baseball is not a "contact" sport; players typically come within six feet of each other only when they run or slide into a base.  On the other hand, in basketball players. for example,  are normally within inches of each other, and are wearing very little.

What I said about basketball players also applies to bicycle racers in the peloton.  In major races, a hundred or more riders are pedaling--and breathing hard--in an area about the size of an eat-in kitchen in a New York apartment. 

I thought about all of this when I learned that the Vuelta a Burgos was running.  It's the first international race held since coronavirus shutdowns began in March. Race organizers tout the precautions they are taking and, to date, no rider has tested positive.  Still, one has to wonder whether the race will end without anyone coming down with the virus.

A rider competing in the Tour de France

The same question could be asked about the Tour de France.  It would normally end about now, but has been rescheduled for 29 August to 20 September.  Tour organizers have devised two different sets of protocols.  Still, one has to wonder whether either would be sufficient, especially there seem to be new outbreaks in parts of Europe as well as the US.

A socially-distanced peloton?  Perhaps a race could be run that way.  But would it lose something, like a basketball game in which defenders can't stand between a the basket and an opponent dribbling the ball.

26 July 2020

Would Renewable Energy Sustain This?

Yesterday I advanced the crazy idea that Samuel Beckett may have been a sustainable transportation advocate.

If he were, he probably would have favored renewable energy.

So, would he have approved of this?

It looks like something someone would have created during the days of the "penny farthing" (high-wheeled bicycle) were folks thinking about "renewable energy" or "sustainable transportation."

25 July 2020

Was He A Sustainable Transportation Advocate?

What if Socrates were the protagonist of The Odyssey? 

Well, for one thing, it wouldn't be called The Odyssey because its central character is Odysseus.  So what would The Socratessy (or whatever it would be called) be like?

And what if, in such a story, Socrates had a bicycle?

I have to admit that I never pondered such a scenario.  Perhaps it means that I'm not as creative or deep a thinker as I've fancied myself to be.   Or it may simply mean that I'm not Samuel Beckett.  

Although I've read his poetry and most of his drama (of which I've seen performances), I am guilty of ignoring his fiction. Why? I don't know.  But after coming across an article by transportation policy analyst Gideon Forman, I plan to read Molloy.

Like his best-known works, Waiting for Godot (En attendant Godot) and Endgame (Fin de partie),  Beckett wrote Molloy in French.  (He was born and raised in Ireland but spent most of his adult life in France.)  The title character is, like Socrates, a kind of brilliant philosopher who is homeless. He is on a quest to reunite with his elderly mother; Odysseus is trying to get home to his wife.  And, in another sort-of-parallel to the ancient Greek tale, Molloy is not certain that he will arrive--or that he is even on his way to his destination.

Molloy, who has leg problems, nonetheless undertakes his journey on a bicycle.  "Crippled though I was, I was no mean cyclist," he says.  As Forman points out, however, the bicycle signals poverty:  Molloy can't afford bus or train fare, much less an automobile.  

But, as Forman points out, Beckett--whether or not it was his intention--shows what a democratizing force the bicycle is:  Even in his poverty, with his handicaps, Molloy still can ride it.  

Perhaps most interestingly of all, the bicycle becomes a sort of companion like the eponymous donkey of Juan Ramon Jiminez's Platero y yo  (Platero and I). "Thus we cleared these difficult straits, my bicycle and I, together," Molloy says of his mount.  I imagine that Molloy--and perhaps Beckett himself--would understand the grief I feel over crashing Arielle, my Mercian Audax, or the bikes I've lost to theft.

Could it be that Monsieur Beckett embedded advocacy for cycling (and other sustainable transportation) in a story about uncertainty?

24 July 2020

A Bike Thief's Luck Runs Out

Yesterday I subjected you, dear readers, to a story about a bike shop break-in and my ruminations about how the COVID-19 epidemic has turned bicycles into scarce and valuable commodities.

Well, today, I'm going to introduce you to a bike thief who seemed not to be motivated by the current bike boom and shortage.  

In Mesquite, Nevada--just over the state line from Utah--police responded to a bicycle theft at the Virgin River Casino. (Am I the only one who thinks "virgin" and "casino" look odd together?) Not long afterward, at a nearby gas station, someone jumped into a car that had been left running and drove it away.

According to Mesquite Police Sergeant Wyatt Oliver, people often leave cars running so that it won't get too hot inside.  The key (pun intended) is to lock it before leaving, he explained.  It seems that most people remember to do that, so Officer Oliver says, such a theft "doesn't happen very often."

The thief did something else that "doesn't happen very often."  When vehicles are stolen in the area, thieves normally make a beeline for the nearby freeway.  Our anti-hero drove to another casino where employees reported someone "acting suspiciously."  Mesquite police officers then showed up and arrested Danielle Derosia of Henderson, Colorado.

Danielle Derosia

So what motivated her?  My guess is that both thefts were "crimes of opportunity."  Finding an unattended car with its engine running after she'd just stolen a bike may have led her to believe that she had luck on her side and she decided to try that luck in the casino.  And, though she had the impulse to steal, she wasn't thinking like a seasoned thief, who would run as far and fast as possible from the scene of the crime.

Whatever her motivations or level of "street smarts," she stole a bike.  That won't win her many fans on this blog!

23 July 2020

A Consequence Of The Current Bike Boom

By now, you've heard from me, Retrogrouch, other bloggers and various media outlets about the new "bike boom" spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That "boom" means that bicycles as well as helmets, locks and other related items are scarce, or unavailable, due to disruptions in supply chains.  

About all I remember from my economics course is "supply and demand."  The professor, it seemed, intoned that phrase about three or for times every class.  

When there's more demand than supply, prices go up. Of course, you don't need an economics class to understand that--or that, in such circumstances, when demand continues to outstrip supply, enterprising folks will find ways to appropriate some of the supply.

That last clause is, as you know, a polite way of saying, in such a situation, some will steal--whether for themselves or to supply unmet demand. 

The thing is, victims of theft tend not to  care much about why someone steal from them.  They want their stuff back, or to be remunerated for it.  And, depending on their beliefs and temperament, they want the thief to be penalized. 

While bikes are stolen in "normal" (whatever that means anymore) times, whether from the street or a shop, it seems that, lately, there's been an increase in the number of shop break-ins---and the amount and dollar value of what's taken.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, a white pickup truck pulled up by Pearland Bicycles in Houston.  Someone emerged from the vehicle, crowbar in hand.  In prying open the store's glass door, he shattered it.  He and two accomplices ran inside and grabbed whatever they could.  Within minutes, they had about 20 bikes. Pearland owner Darryl Catching says he lost around $40,000 in the burglary.

Some of the bikes were already sold and waiting for customers to pick them up, he said.  So it is even more imperative for him to replace those bikes than if they had simply been standing in the showroom.

Because the thieves struck at 1:30 am, they had time.  How much? "Looks like one of them, he went to the restroom," Catching said.  

22 July 2020

Sea And Sun--And More Sun

Yesterday I took another ride out to Point Lookout and back:  120 kilometers out and back.

The ride takes me along through the Rockaways and along the South Shore of Nassau County.  The day was hot and sunny so, even though it was a Tuesday, the beaches were full of sunbathers, swimmers and people just hanging out.  Others were hanging out on the boardwalk, where, interestingly, I saw more families (or, at least adults with kids) cycling together than I can recall from previous rides.  I guess it's not a surprise when not only kids, but their parents (or other adults in their lives) are home.

One way this ride differed, though, was the way I felt at the end of it.  My legs felt pretty good, and the pain in my neck and shoulders is dissipating.  When I got home, however, I felt tired in a different way from the fatigue at the end of my last Point Lookout ride.

I felt woozy and very, very warm.  Within seconds, it seemed, of sitting down, I fell asleep.  About two hours later, I woke, with Marlee in my lap.

Today I realized that not only the heat, but the sun, had worn on me.  Normally, at this time of year, I would be well-acclimated to both.  But my layoff, in the wake of my crash, kept me indoors most of the time.  And, of pedaling next to the ocean for much of my ride only magnified the sun's rays on my skin.  

Just about every year includes a ride like the one I took yesterday.  Usually, it's in mid- or late May, or possibly June.  This spring, however, was (or at least seemed) cooler and cloudier than usual.  I think I missed the first true summer weather when I was in the hospital, or during my time recuperating at home.

Oh, well.  At least I don't have COVID-19.  Not yet, anyway!

20 July 2020

Bicycle Street Leads To Disappointment

By now, you've heard umpteen stories about how the COVID-19 pandemic has spawned a new "bike boom":  New cyclists are pedaling up and down streets and lanes; bikes and parts are flying off showroom floors and shelves.  Meanwhile, some cities and other jurisdictions are making plans for new bike lanes and other forms of infrastructure.

While all of these developments are signs that a bike culture might be developing here in the US (at least in some areas), you know that a city already has a bike culture when merely creating new bike paths or other provisions for cyclists is not, in itself, a cause for joy.  In such a place, at least a few people know enough when a new policy or facility could be better--especially when good ones cost the same (or not much more than ) bad ones.

Berlin, Germany seems to be such a place.  Immanuel Marcus, in an article for the Berlin Spectator, says that a new "bicycle street" in the city's Kreuzberg district "disapppoints."  One problem, he says, is that the "Kortestrasse" sign was not fixed but was on a metal post that could easily be carried away.  The other "Bicycle Street" signs between the Sudstern subway station and Mariannenplatz share this defect.  To Marcus, this is an indication--to at least some people--that the bike lane designation is "provisional".

Worse, he says, some motorists don't know or don't want to know what the signs mean.  The only cars allowed on the "Bicycle Street" are those of local residents.  Apparently, there isn't a sign to indicate as much at any entry point to the Bicycle Street.  So, he says, cars "with number plates from places other than Berlin" enter the thoroughfare.  While they is a big sign painted on the street itself, those motorists may not see it--or understand it--until they have already entered. 

(From what Marcus says, it seems that people in other parts of Germany are unaware of the designated bike streets, or even the concept of them, because such things don't exist in their communities.)

Now, I haven't been on the Bicycle Street, so I can't comment on its usefulness or whether it's well-conceived in other ways.  But the fact that someone like Immanuel Marcus can so critique it in a publication that isn't bicycle-specific tells me at least something about the difference between bicycle culture in Berlin and almost anyplace in America.

19 July 2020

There's Nothing Like It

I ride Brooks saddles.  About a decade ago, I tried an Imperial version of their B-17.  I didn't care for it. Then again, I've never liked saddles with cutouts, though  I understand that some people won't ride anything else. 

"Peek-a-boo" seats have, I must say, at least one benefit I never considered:

The owner of that Puch will never have to worry about having his or her seat stolen.  That person also will have no use for one of my "tricks".

18 July 2020

When He Couldn't Fly...

Day after day, flights home were canceled.

So what did Kleon Papadimitriou do?  He got on his bike.

He began in Scotland, where he's a University of Aberdeen student.  Forty-eight days and 4100 kilometers (about 2550 miles) later, he was back in his Athens neighborhood.

Before he embarked, he set up an app and Instagram account so supporters could follow his journey.   He packed bread and canned foods, he said, and pedaled between 55 and 120 kilometers a day on a trip that took him through Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Italy.  His journey included, in addition to the English Channel crossing, a boat ride from Italy's east coast to the Greek port of Patras.

It's now just dawning on him how much of an achievement his ride was, he says.  "I really hope that the trip inspired at least one more person to go out of their comfort zone and try something new, something big."

I couldn't help but to think he comes from a long line of people who would do whatever was necessary to get home.  At least it didn't take him 10 years, as it did for Odysseus, to reunite with his family, friends and everything else familiar to him!

(Odysseus never would have made it as a baseball player!)

17 July 2020

A Group By Another Name

I grew up in a time when, if you didn't know the gender of the person you were talking about, you referred to that person with masculine pronouns.  For example, you'd say or write, "If a cyclist wants to do a long ride, he should build up to it by doing a short ride every day."

During that time, terms and labels that are now seen as offensive seemed normal.  Even civil rights leaders referred to Americans of African heritage as "Negroes" and women called their friends "the girls."  And "tribe" was often used to talk about members of a tight-knit group.

Even when it was still an acceptable term, I used to cringe when I heard "Negro," even if it was "good enough for Martin Luther King and Malcolm X," as one of my teachers put it.  Perhaps my reaction came from hearing it pronounced "knee-grow."  As for "tribe," it never occurred to me, until recently, that anyone could find it offensive.  I guess that shows I have more "white privilege" than I realize!

John Parker | Yeti Cycles Maker

Perhaps the Chris Conroy and Steve Hoogendoorn, the owners of Yeti Cycles, came to that same conclusion.  A week and a half ago, they signed this e-mail the company sent to the media:

When Yeti Cycles started thirty-five years ago, the founders felt strongly about building a community that was founded on racing and the belief that mountain bikes make us better people. We shared this with our friends at the races, at festivals and ultimately at Yeti Tribe Gatherings, where hundreds gather each year to ride epic trails, and enjoy the camaraderie of post ride beers and stories together.

We’ve referred to this crew as the Yeti Tribe – a community of people who love to ride mountain bikes. The notion of tribe was appealing to us because it was community-centric, familial, and had strong social values. 

Recently, we’ve learned our use of the term “Tribe” can be offensive to indigenous people, due to the violent history they have endured in the United States.  The word “Tribe” is a colonial construct that was used to marginalize Native Americans and its continued use by non-indigenous people fails to accurately recognize their history and unique status as Tribal Nations.

After discussion with members of the indigenous community, studying accurate representations of our shared history, and reflecting on our values as a company, Yeti Cycles has decided we will no longer use the term “Tribe” in our marketing.

The community we have built will move forward and thrive. Yeti Gatherings will continue to be our most valued events of the year. We have walked away from a word, but the soul of our community remains intact. We ask you all to join us in embracing this change.

Thanks to the mountain bike community for your guidance and especially to the members of the indigenous community for educating us on this issue. 

16 July 2020

One More Ride To Normal

We've all heard that, as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, some things "won't be the same."  We have some ideas about some of the things that might change--schools, workplaces and such--but we also know that there will be changes that few, if any, of us can predict.

That, I believe, motivates us to want--and celebrate--a return to things that are familiar.

What I have just described can also describe recovering from a major illness, accident or other trauma.  At least, that's how I feel about the aftermath of my crash.

Finally getting on my bike last week, if only for a short ride, was a sign that at least something in my life was on its way to normalcy.  Riding again the other day--and making a dessert I've wanted to make for a long time--was another.

Yesterday I took another step--or ride, if you will--toward life as I knew it.

For the first time in more than a month, I pedaled to Point Lookout.  At 120 kilometers, give or take, it's the longest ride I've done since my accident.  

The good news is that in my neck and shoulders, where pain has persisted, feel better than they did yesterday or at any time in the past month.  I still feel some twinges and stiffness, but simply holding my head up doesn't tire me.  

I felt pretty good in general.  The only "bad news," if you can call it that, is that I felt more tired than I usually feel at the end of such a ride. Part of my fatigue was a result of not having done such a ride in more than a month.  Another part of my tiredness came from having pedaled into a fairly brisk wind from the southeast, under a bright sun, all the way to Point Lookout.  Of course, I had the wind at my back on my way home, but there was still nothing between me and solar rays but my sunscreen.

What I've said about the sun and wind isn't a complaint:  I could hardly have had a more beautiful day on which to complete one more step on my return to what is normal in my life.  I wonder what will change.

15 July 2020

Vive La Velo--And Cherries Clafoutis

Yesterday I celebrated Bastille Day in a pretty French way.

After attending to a couple of errands related to my recovery, I went for a ride.  It wasn't long or difficult, but these days simply getting on Dee-Lilah, my Mercian Vincitore Special (or any of my other bike) is reassuring.

People ride all over the world. But when I ride on la grande fete, I can't help but to think about Parisian streets or Pyreneean paths, where I have ridden on the 14th in years past.

After eating a healthy supper, I did something entirely French--and indulgent.  Over the last couple of days, I bought about three kilos of cherries.  When I see those ruby (or yellow) fruits, fresh, in a greenmarket or streetside stall, I simply can't resist!  I know that sometimes cherries from the Southern Hemisphere are available in the winter.  They're perfectly fine, but there's nothing like in-season local (or at least domestic) fruit.

So what did I do with my "harvest?"  I turned some into a dessert I've enjoyed in France but I almost never find here in the 'States: Clafoutis aux Cerises (Cherry Clafoutis)

It's a vanilla custard, a bit denser than creme caramel or flan, with cherries.  (I added some chopped almonds.) Unlike so many French foods, it's not much to look at.  Someone once told me, only half-jokingly, that it's the reason why Americans like to coat it with confectioner's sugar.  I don't, partly because I'm generally not a fan of powdered sugar, but also because I don't want to mask this dessert's unique combination of flavors and textures.

Since I don't have a proper baking dish (I broke the one I had over the holidays), I made two smaller tarts.

Whether or not it's a jour de fete--or you're a Francophile--you should enjoy this treat at least once a year.  It's really not so difficult to make.  And, let's face it, after a good ride, you deserve it!

14 July 2020

Storming And Social Distancing

How can you enjoy Bastille Day with "social distancing" in force?

There's always a way to celebrate a holiday.  (To me, cycling is a celebration!)  I have to wonder, though, whether there would be a Bastille Day had there been a social distancing regulation in 1789.

Then again, would people who storm a prison obey such a rule?

13 July 2020

It "Did Not Appear As Stable"

"An iguana got caught in my wheel."

Now that would have been something to tell the folks at Montefiore-New Rochelle or Westchester Medical Center--not to mention the New Rochelle Police Department.

Of course, they wouldn't have believed it.  At least, that's what I think:  After all, the long green creatures aren't nature to this part of the world.

Then again, I once took a tumble so a cat wouldn't be entangled in my wheel. (If you've been reading this blog a while, you know how I feel about cats!)  And a big dog--a German Shepherd, if I recall correctly--knocked me off my Schwinn Continental when I was delivering newspapers.

If someone's feline or canine could make a beeline into my path, who's to say that a someone's pet lizard, in New Rochelle or anywhere else, couldn't escape and dart into a cyclist's wheel?

All right, I admit, that seems less likely than the dog or cat scenarios.  But when I've cycled in Florida, I've had a near-miss with an armadillo and, it seems, cute little green lizards seem to make a sport of seeing how close people can ride or run before they make their "escapes."

I've seen iguanas during my trips to the Sunshine State.  Fortunately for me, they kept a respectful distance.  A cyclist in Marathon, however, learned the hard way that, perhaps, iguanas don't always know how they'll get entangled--or how they can entangle people's lives.  

From Monroe County (FL) Sheriff's Office

The cyclist ended up in the hospital.  It seems that his injuries aren't serious.  However, according to Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokesman Adam Linhardt, "The condition of the iguana did not appear as stable."

As a recent accident victim, I wish a speedy and full recovery to all.

11 July 2020

Who And What Are They Trying To Keep Out?

The European Union is closed to visitors from the US and other places.

For what may be the first time in history,  the border between the US and Canada is closed, except for "essential" travel and people returning to Alaska.

Even the border between the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria is closed.  

Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, when my hometown of New York was one of the "hot spots," other states required visitors from our state, and others, to self-quarantine.  Beaches and parks in New Jersey and Long Island were open only to local residents.

Now that the "curve" has "flattened," at least for for the time being, we and neighboring states are requiring visitors from Florida, Texas and other states that have become new "hot spots" to self-quarantine upon arrival.

But as far as I know, no place has had any "no outsider" ban that applied specifically to cyclists.  At least, not until this past Tuesday, when the village of Key Biscayne, Florida banned all bicycle travel by non-residents.

The reason the village, located on a barrier island off Miami and Miami Beach, gave for its prohibition is to stop the spread of the corona virus.  Lawyers representing several Miami-Dade residents said the ban "based on a report of a few individuals not wearing masks" is "absurd."  One of the lawyers, Phil Prazan, said that because cars are still allowed into the village,  the new rule is a "poorly veiled excuse to ban cyclists."

Hmm...I wonder how many people--local residents or outsiders--are congregating, sans masks, on area beaches.

10 July 2020

Recovery: I Want It Now!

I am learning new meanings to words I've long used: "trauma" and "recovery."

The "lesson," if you will, came yesterday.  I pedaled up to Harbor Island Park (in Mamaroneck) and back.  That's a little more than my typical "long" ride to and from Greenwich, Connecticut.  Yet it tired me out more than the trek to and from the Nutmeg State.

One reason, of course, is that I have done so little riding since my accident.  Until then, this riding season had been one of my best in a long time:  I'd been spinning 300 kilometers or more a week since the first of January.  I think I had been more than making up for the commuting miles I lost once I started working from home.

Still, I found it hard to believe that I could have lost so much conditioning in less than a month.  Whether or not I did, there was another clue as to why I went horizontal after my ride:  I realized that I'd drunk the full contents of my water bottle--in addition to another bottle of water and an energy drink I picked up along the way.  

Yesterday turned out to be the hottest day I've ridden this year:  A bank thermometer in Larchmont gave a reading of 34C, or 94F.  And the sun was beating down on me.   Even after replenishing my sun screen, I could see and feel my skin reddening.

As it happened, my doctor called just after I got home to schedule an appointment.  I complained that a ride "I can do in my sleep" left me exhausted.  "Well, you're suffering from trauma," he reminded me.  "That's what trauma does to you."  Even though I haven't experienced any loss of cognition and the only pain I'm feeling is around my shoulders, my body is still dealing with the shock of the crash, he explained.  "Don't beat yourself up," he admonished me.

From Active.com

That is when I realized what "recovery" means:  You don't snap your fingers or flick a switch and return to what was before the shock, before the trauma.  Recovery is a process, and processes nearly always take time.

Still, I want to ride as I did a month ago. And I want it now!

08 July 2020

New Life For An Old Ride

"Am I getting old? Or is the bike?"

I replied "no" to both questions because, well, it was the truth.  At that time, I wouldn't have called myself "middle-aged," and she was a good bit younger than I was.  And, as a sometime bike mechanic, I knew that most bikes, unless they've been crashed or left in an undersea cave, can be salvaged.

We used to ride together from work because she lived about halfway between our workplace and my apartment and I enjoyed her company.  Also, we left at night, and I had enough testosterone in me to see myself as her protector.

I offered to tune up her bike--a Dunelt three-speed that was probably even older than she was.  She offered to treat me to a "nice brunch."

She made good on her offer.  One day, I packed my bottle of Tri-Flo with my books and change of shoes.  During a break between classes, I jogged down to the campus bike rack.  She was nowhere in sight. I lubed her chain and inflated her tires with my Zefal HP frame pump.  That night, she marvelled that riding her bike seemed "so much easier." 

If I were a better (or simply nicer) person, I could have told her that she was getting stronger from her daily commute--which she most likely was.  Instead, I "confessed."

She marveled that simply keeping her tires inflated and chain lubed could make such a difference.  I admitted that they were a "major part" of bike maintenance, but reiterated my offer to make her bike "like new."  She never took me up on it.

Had she availed herself to my expertise, not only would her gears, brakes and other parts have worked better than she ever imagined they could; I would have shown her how simple it actually is to keep a bike (especially one like hers) running.

I thought about our offers to each other when I came across this article in Popular Science.  Its author, Stan Horaczek, understands something I've long known:  Most bikes can be "resurrected" as long as they haven't been crashed or have been stored underwater.    Better yet, most repairs that will make most long-dormant bikes functional don't require special tools.

So, if you want to start riding again and can't find a suitable ride at your local shop--or even Craigslist--there may be a "treasure" in your or a family member's or friend's basement or rafters.

07 July 2020

Connect--Or Follow--The Dots

In a normal year, the Tour de France would be in its third or fourth stage right about now.  Depending on where the prologue was staged, the riders would be pedaling by Picardian poppy fields, zagging along la Cote Opale or, perhaps, winding past Burgundian vineyards.  While they might encounter some hills along the way, they probably would not have begun to ascend the tortuous mountain climbs for which the Tour is famous.

So, there wouldn't be much talk about who would be "crowned" King of the Mountains

and wear the "royal" polka dot jersey.

Perhaps the only riders who get more respect than its wearer are the ones who sport the overall leader's maillot jaune (yellow jersey) or the points leader's green jersey.  Having pedaled up a few Tour climbs, including the Alpe d'Huez, les deux Alpes, Col de Lauteret,  and le Col du Galibier, there are few athletes I admire more than those who make such ascents on a regular basis!

Plus, I'll admit, I am just enough of a fashionista to want to wear a polka dot jersey!

06 July 2020

Helmets Off

For a long time, I resisted wearing a helmet.  Then again, when I was becoming a serious cyclist, helmet-wearing hadn't become the norm.  

These days, if I leave my apartment with my bike and without my helmet, I quickly realize that something is off.  I feel as if I were in one of those dreams where I'm naked and everyone else is clothed.  

Just as what you wear can be a life-and-death matter (especially in extreme weather), protecting your head can protect a lot of other things.  The doctor at the hospital told me as much:  As much of a mess as I was after my recent accident, I at least don't seem to have brain or spine injuries.

I have had two occasions when, if wearing a helmet didn't save my life, it at least spared me worse injuries.  The first time, a truck driver flung his door open into my side, sending me on the one and only somersault I've ever done on a bicycle.  I came out of it with a sprained wrist.  A few years later, I rode up the wrong side of a BMX mound and did an unintentional "flip."  My helmet literally broke in two, but I--and my bike--remained intact.

After such experiences, you might (understandably) expect me to wonder what members of the Tacoma city council were thinking.

Last week, they voted for an ordinance that, among other things, repeals the city's law--on the books since 1994--requiring for helmets for cyclists. 

Lisa Kaster, a senior planner and active transportation planner for the city, cited "outdated, inconsistent code language" that "doesn't align with best practices or city and state policy" as a motive for the the Council's action.  

Why Bill de Blasio is wrong about helmet laws for NYC cyclists ...

As in many other cities, bicycling has become a bona fide means of transportation as well as recreation in Tacoma.  Also, other forms of non-motorized mobility, such as scooters and skates, have gained popularity.  It seems that Council members faced the same dilemma that vexes their counterparts in other cities:  How can a law be written to be fair and relevant to current practices yet flexible enough to accommodate change?

Interestingly, Washington--like most other US states--requires helmets for motorcycle riders.

While I encourage people to wear helmets, I am still not certain that such a practice should be mandated.  At least, I don't think requiring helmets will prevent all, or even most, serious head injuries, not to mention other maladies.  Wearing a helmet while engaging in unsafe practices, such as wearing headphones or riding against traffic will not protect the helmet's wearer--or anyone else.